Category: South Africa (page 12 of 22)

Mohammad Amir – don’t mourn the loss of a future great

We are deliberately using a picture where he isn't wearing cricket gear

“Please don’t let it be the kid,” said Nasser Hussain at the start of all of this. He spoke for most of us.

We wanted Mohammad Amir to be innocent, but it turns out that he wasn’t and believing that he might have become a future great makes no sense now that the facts are in.

He won’t be a future great and there is a very good reason for that.

A test of character

Cricket, and Test cricket in particular, is a test of character. In fact, over the course of a career, it’s a test of everything. The great players weren’t necessarily the only ones with extraordinary skill at their disposal. They were also the ones who gave themselves the best chance of proving how good they were.

Take Dale Steyn for example

He is currently considered the best bowler in the world. Is that simply because he’s the most skilful? No, it’s not.

Some bowlers have had better opening spells, but Steyn stays strong all day. Other bowlers have taken more wickets in an innings, but Steyn bowls well almost every innings. Some bowlers have had fewer setbacks, but Steyn has responded better to the ones he’s had.

He’s had bad days and injuries and he’s wealthy enough that he doesn’t need to play. Yet he does. He hasn’t got lazy; he hasn’t got fat; he hasn’t grown dispirited or disillusioned; and as far as any of us know, he hasn’t accepted money to bowl any no-balls.


Being persuaded to fix elements of cricket matches is a failing. It knackers your career even more comprehensively than other failings, like lack of skill, lack of fitness or wealth-induced complacency, which is what keeps so many promising cricketers from achieving their potential.

We are not going to mourn the loss of Mohammad Amir, because even if he was pressured into doing what he did, he doesn’t seem to have resisted strongly enough. He was found wanting.

New Zealand were the ones who beat South Africa

New Zealand celebrate winning the toss

Exceptional cricket. That is how you exploit a weakness.

At 108-2 chasing 222, South Africa seemed untroubled, but there was a spot on their face. It was very small, but it was there. With the dismissal of Jacques Kallis, they gave it a little bit of a scratch and took the top off it, drawing a faint speck of blood.

What New Zealand did then was magnificent. They sawed off Mount Everest, tipped it over, inserted the tip into that blemish and pushed. Bringing the field in, surrounding the South Africans, they pushed and they pushed and they pushed until that tiny break in the skin was a wound and then they pushed some more until South Africa split in two.

That is how you win big cricket matches. Full marks to New Zealand. References to South African mental frailty do them a grave disservice.

Cricket World Cup storylines

The great thing about actual, proper tournaments is the way that narratives develop. Every remaining team already has a good story in place if they eventually go on to become World Champions.

Pakistan – Would defy what was a catastrophic build-up to the tournament even by their standards. Being as Pakistan cricket has a higher staff turnover than the active squad in Cannon Fodder, that’s quite some preparation.

India – Would see Sachin Tendulkar claim the trophy in his home city.

Australia – Like an old codger urinating in a rich man’s swimming pool, they would have found a way to rage against the dying of the light.

England – Would have shrugged off a triviality like seeming to be really, really bad at cricket to register a first World Cup win which would also complete their best year ever.

Sri Lanka – Could wave goodbye to Muralitharan having repaid about 0.01 per cent of the debt they owe the man.

South Africa – Would have demonstrated a newfound ability to ensure the flow of air from the environment into the lungs.

New Zealand – Would have won the World Cup. They haven’t done that before.

What’s a good World Cup score?

England’s 327 wasn’t enough against Ireland, but 171 was enough against South Africa. It’s not a matter of different opponents, it’s different conditions. This is why between-innings analysis is so often virtually worthless.

What constitutes a good score varies because a run doesn’t have a set value – it changes depending on the match. People who rate one batsman as being better than another because he averages half a run more would do well to learn that.

On the other hand, in England’s case you could say that lower scores are better. When runs are more valuable, England have been less spendthrift in the field. With that in mind, a good World Cup score for them would be somewhere around 11 or 12 – maybe as much as 30.

Up until their last match, England had been scoring far too heavily to be realistic challengers for this World Cup, so the injury to Kevin Pietersen could prove a godsend. Calling up Eoin Morgan as his replacement would be a massive mistake. It would make far more sense to call up someone like Devon Malcolm to play as a specialist batsman.

The ‘scoring fewer runs’ tactic does fall down a bit if you’re chasing a target we’ve just realised. They say that nothing is certain in cricket, but you’d be lucky to get away with a tie if you scored 52 and the opposition scored 320.

South Africa ‘choke’ against England

England could have beaten India and Ireland, but beat neither. They’ve a far better claim to being chokers than South Africa at present.

In the last 12 months, Australia have lost a Twenty20 international off the last ball to England; lost a one-dayer by one wicket to Sri Lanka; lost a Test by one wicket to India; and lost a one-dayer by one wicket to England. Chokers.

Pakistan have lost matches to all sorts of people down the years, but their ‘mercurial’ reputation takes precedence, otherwise they’d be chokers.

Generally, one of the two teams playing a given match will lose. Quite often the match will have been close. Yet it seems that only if a group of people wearing the same colour clothes lost a close World Cup semi final in 1999 will the losing team be accused of being chokers.

When did the South Africa cricket team become exciting?

Yes, it is Imran Tahir and yes, he does look like that

Seriously, South Africa have got a worryingly strong claim to being the most exciting team in this World Cup.

They pick three spinners, including a devilish leggie and they ask one of them to open the bowling. They have the best player in the world. They have no consistent gameplan. Shouldn’t this be Pakistan we’re describing?

Our whole world is upside down. We haven’t felt like this since we took a trip down memory lane with a pint of Boddington’s and found that it was almost unspeakably bland and insipid.

Jacques Kallis would genuinely score more runs than you with his eyes closed

We've warmed to Jacques Kallis quite a bit of lateYesterday, we wrote about Steyn and Tendulkar, but there’s another modern great on display in that match.

Like Tendulkar, Jacques Kallis seems to have reached an even loftier plane in middle age. You’ll need to go to another website to see the statistics about his recent form, but take it from us, they’re phenomenal.

In this innings, it was 64-4 and then 98-5; India were on one of those rolls where the match suddenly goes from nought to sixty in a split second; and he had a knacked up side muscle. None of this mattered. Jacques Kallis was going to score a hundred.

Comparisons are odious but informative and it’s worth noting that although Sachin Tendulkar has about 3,000 more Test runs than Kallis, the latter’s average is superior (57.43 compared to 56.54). For a man who’s only recorded one double hundred in his Test career, that average speaks of unparalleled consistency, even if it also betrays an occasional tendency to play the anchor when that role is unwarranted.

Throw in the “reluctant” acquisition of 270 Test wickets and an appearance in the world’s first 100% great advert and you’ve got a very special cricketer.

Today though, it was all about his immovability at a key moment in a crucial and difficult match. That’s worth more than the numbers.

Dale Steyn doesn’t have a loosener

It’s yet another amazing thing about Dale Steyn that he’s pretty damn likely to slice in and arc the first ball of the day past the batsman’s outside edge. He doesn’t really do looseners.

Our own approach to starting work is more like that of Peter Gibbons, who explains how he likes to just ‘space out’ for about an hour at the start of his working day.

“I just stare at my desk; but it looks like I’m working. I do that for probably another hour after lunch too. I’d say in a given week I probably only do about fifteen minutes of real, actual, work.”

Dale’s the keen guy at work. The guy who’s really eager and ‘tries’.

But it’s okay to be that guy in his line of work, because his line of work is massively cool.

Dale’s a fast bowler.

Dale Steyn versus Sachin Tendulkar in an abbreviated title bout

Tendulkar wins this roundThere’s a great Test series taking place in South Africa at the moment and we’re gutted that we’re missing so much of it because of the Ashes.

It’s like when you get carried away ordering takeaway. The leftovers won’t keep for a week, so you’ve got to make some tough decisions about what gets eaten and what doesn’t. However, while we’ve had a hell of a lot of Ashes, we’ve always got room for Dale Steyn and Sachin Tendulkar.

While Morne Morkel’s a 5-90 then 0-90 kind of a bowler. Dale Steyn’s more 3-50, 4-80, 5-90. Off-days are very rare and he’s been slashing at India almost constantly for three Tests now.

In many ways, Tendulkar is similar. Test hundreds 50 and 51 against this bowling attack in its home conditions tells you pretty much all you need to know about the man.

If we have one minor gripe, it’s that it’s only a three-Test series. Wait. Did we say ‘minor gripe’? We meant ‘colossal ball-aching issue that just about makes us want to cry’.

Dale Steyn: Lord Megachief of Gold 2010

It was MS Dhoni in 2009. It’s Dale Steyn in 2010.

Sachin Tendulkar ran him close, hitting seven Test hundreds, but it can’t be a batsman every year. Graeme Swann took more Test wickets, but 44 of them were against Bangladesh and a spattered Pakistan side that barely ever looked like limping to 200.

Dale Steyn, however. Dale Steyn has been an unqualified success. The Test figures (and who cares about any others?) are 60 wickets at 21.41 in 11 matches. Those are statistics from a long gone era, but that’s barely half the story.

Strike rate

So far, in his Test career, Dale Steyn has taken a wicket every 39.7 balls. Shane Bond and Steve Finn are in the same ballpark, but they can only boast of 133 wickets between them. Steyn has taken 232.

He is, quite simply, the most destructive bowler of modern times. In the all-time list, only George Lohmann has taken 100 or more wickets at a faster rate and he played in the 1890s.

Here, there and everywhere

Lohmann played on a grand total of nine grounds over the course of his Test career. Dale Steyn played on 11 in 2010.

He went through England at Johannesburg; India at Nagpur; West Indies at Port of Spain; Pakistan at Abu Dhabi; and through India again at Durban. If Dale Steyn played a World XI on the moon, you’d bet on him getting a five-for. Even if there weren’t any fielders.

The Nagpur demolition was the most memorable. We’re brought up to believe that you need great spinners to succeed in India, but after South Africa had made 558-6, Steyn went and took 7-51, unzipping his flies and urinating in the face of conventional wisdom.

So that’s why he’s Lord Megachief of Gold?

No, not really. Dale Steyn is Lord Megachief of Gold 2010 because he makes every Test match he plays in exciting.

When wickets aren’t falling in a Test, the match isn’t progressing. You can score as many runs as you like, but TEST CRICKET IS ABOUT TAKING WICKETS. Steyn drives Test matches. Without him, they’re far less likely to go somewhere.

Plus, he means it. He bloody means it. During the Cape Town Test against England in January, we wrote:

“If you saw Dale Steyn’s celebration when he dismissed Kevin Pietersen on day four, that was quite something; that was a fast bowler on the verge of combustion, so full of adrenaline-fuelled power that he could have towed the continents back into place to reform Pangaea.”

He is hell-bent on taking wickets and it shows. That is watchable in itself. In the same match, he bowled the most spectacular spell to Paul Collingwood with a new ball. It was mystifyingly unsuccessful, but as a passage of play, it was as memorable as anything that’s happened all year.

No-one is doing more for Test cricket than Dale Steyn right now.

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